With Miami trailing by two and just under 15 seconds to play, Heat center Hassan Whiteside’s layup attempt was blocked by Pelicans center Omer Asik.
But Asik couldn’t connect with teammate Eric Gordon on the outlet pass, turning the ball over and giving Miami a second shot to tie the score or win.
Dwyane Wade’s game-winning three-point attempt, however, was off the mark, and the Heat fell 104-102 on Friday night at the Smoothie King Center.
“I got a good look,” said Wade, who finished with 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting. “I thought I finally would hit a shot. It was on line but it didn’t go in.”
Miami (25-32) built its largest lead (10 points) in the third quarter thanks in part to strong play in the paint by Whiteside, who scored eight third-quarter points. Miami closed the quarter with an 82-73 lead.
The Pelicans (31-27), however, opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run before Heat guard Mario Chalmers drained a three-pointer with 9:36 to play to break Miami’s scoring drought. Chalmers was scoreless through three quarters but hit two threes in the fourth to keep Miami in front.
But New Orleans chipped away at Miami’s lead, ultimately tying the score five times before Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca hit a layup with 25.9 seconds to play, scoring what proved to be the winning points.
Ajinca came off the bench and led all scorers with with 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting.
“My teammates gave me the ball in the right position, I just had to finish,” Ajinca said. “I made some great plays. I have to say God is good, I can’t complain.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra lamented the easy baskets conceded by his team.
“Obviously we put them in the bonus very early [in the fourth quarter] and getting to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter really took some of our momentum away and we had to defend with a little less aggressiveness,” Spoelstra said. “They scored easy ones but we still had an opportunity in the last couple minutes. We just couldn’t get the key stops that we needed.”
DENG, DRAGIC STAR EARLY
Heat guard Goran Dragic scored 12 points in the first quarter, matching his game total in his Miami debut against the Pelicans on Feb. 21.
Dragic hit six of his first eight shots Friday night en route to a 20-point, five-assist performance. Luol Deng led all scorers with 15 points at the half and finished with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
“It’s a tough loss, we played hard,” Deng said. “At the end of the game, they executed when they needed to.”
The Pelicans played without All-Star forward-center Anthony Davis and forward Ryan Anderson, who sustained shoulder and knee injuries, respectively, in last week’s win in Miami. Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, however, found success attacking the basket and helped get his teammates in the game as he racked up 13 points and seven assists through two quarters Friday night.
New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, who scored 24 points and shouldered the offensive load for the Pelicans after Davis and Anderson went down in the teams’ Feb. 21 meeting, scored 10 points and dished six assists of his own in the first half Friday night.
Heat forward Michael Beasley, who signed a 10-day contract Thursday, checked in with 2:06 to play in the first quarter and scored on his first attempt when he found himself in the post against Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt.
He missed his next three shots before draining a 23-footer from the left wing.
Beasley finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in 10 minutes in the first game of his third stint with the Heat.
“I could’ve done a lot better,” Beasley said. “I’m looking forward to building on tonight’s performance.”
Heat newcomer Henry Walker, who sparked Miami to an overtime win against Orlando on Wednesday night, scored 16 points Friday night, finishing 4 of 9 from three-point range. Whiteside finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.